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DDC 2021: everything big that happened at this year’s DroneDeploy conference

This week saw a slew of new announcements, products and changes for the commercial drone industry, thanks to developments announced at DDC 2021, the annual DroneDeploy conference which was held 100% virtually this year.

Besides a panel discussion featuring yours truly, there were some relatively important announcements, particularly relevant to commercial drone operators who conduct major enterprise operations like inspections and mapping. Here are some of the biggest pieces of news that came out of DDC 2021:

Walkthrough app DroneDeploy DDC 2021

Walkthrough app launches to help capture 360 walkthroughs

Last year we saw the launch of what was called DroneDeploy 360 Walkthrough, which enabled DroneDeploy’s platform to work not just with aerial cameras, but any on-the-ground 360-cameras (hand-held or robotic) too, allowing DroneDeploy’s system for capturing and processing videos to be used to provide comprehensive digital reconstruction of any job site.

This year, DroneDeploy has taken it a step further with the launch of Walkthrough App, which is a companion app to help capture 360 walkthroughs with a couple of taps. Take any camera in your pocket and make it field ready, turning it into a tool for capturing assets or construction projects.

The app was designed for use cases such as field and project engineers leveling up their site walks, energy site operators digitally documenting assets to facilitate faster and more efficient remote inspections, or field engineers capturing conditions for client updates, documentation, and planning.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Download and open the DroneDeploy Walkthrough app, available now on the iOS app store.
  2. Once signed in, select your project (nearby projects are automatically highlighted).
  3. Connect your camera.
  4. Tap record, and allow the app to automatically select ideal settings and reduce file size by roughly 10x while retaining detail.
  5. Wait as the walkthroughs are automatically uploaded and processed on DroneDeploy. You’ll be alerted when the processed data is ready to view. Note that you must have Enterprise Projects and a 360 Walkthrough subscription to process uploads, though any user can at least capture data with it.

DroneDeploy’s Ground Robotics launches

And that’s not the only step DroneDeploy has taken in further promoting ground robotics. The company this week announced the beta launch of DroneDeploy’s Ground Robotics solution which allows users to send ground robots on autonomous inspection missions.

The new beta launch comes as no surprise given that DroneDeploy acquired Rocos just a couple months ago. Rocos built a cloud platform designed to help customers build and manage robot operations, and is specifically designed for rovers or quadrupeds like Spot from Boston Dynamics, that creepy cool dog-like robot.

Take a ground robot and equip it with a payload like a 360-camera, thermal camera or gas sensor, and the robots will capture data of their environment and push this back to the DroneDeploy platform for analysis.

In theory, this should cut back on labor-intensive work previously done by employees walking around job sites with handheld cameras or scanners. The beta test of Ground Robotics is available to DroneDeploy Enterprise customers.

New views, including Floor Plan and Corridor Flight views

Floor Plan View helps organized data by level within a building

What happens when the walls and roof go up on a site, and a drone can no longer see everything underneath? Take reality capture indoors and still gather data, as seen through the Floor Plan View, which allows you to see data directly overlaid on floor plans and organized by level within the building.

The new view is included with Enterprise Projects with 360 Walkthrough.

In theory, DroneDeploy says this view should improve efficiencies in making comparisons over time. The view allows you to compare installation progress captured across different dates in the same location within your building in a single click. And in that vein, a single click can make it easy to spot deviations from plans, incorrect installations, or safety hazards. Once spotted, you can then mark that as an issue. If your workflow is integrated with other project management tools such as Procore or Autodesk BIM 360, you can then assign project members to the issue and allow them to get an entire visual context via DroneDeploy.

Corridor Flight View DroneDeploy DDC 2021

Corridor Flight View is targeted at linear mapping

Many drone flights don’t just occur in a small area, but rather are conducted for pilots to inspect or map roadways, railways, canals or pipelines. And so, for flights down linear areas such as these, DroneDeploy’s new Corridor Flight View makes it easier to create highly detailed maps with efficient flights.

This feature is available on all paid DroneDeploy subscriptions.

Support for more drones

DroneDeploy has expanded what drones you can use with its software. The company announced that it has added support for the Matrice 300 RTK drone. Additionally, it can process radiometric data captured with the H20T, Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, and XTS sensors.

What’s more, DroneDeploy now allows you to customize the gimbal angle with which you capture data, which could come in handy for situations such as roof, pavement, or solar panel inspections.

What stood out to you at this year’s DDC 2021 conference? Ad did you attend, or are you holding out for the return of IRL drone conferences? Leave your thoughts on DDC 2021 below!

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